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Travel Troubles

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I hate travelling. Really. It is a large, deluxe pain-in-the-butt combo with extra aggravation and a side of angst. That might sound weird to people who know me and my family because we travel a couple times a year. I have chronicled our travel adventures in these very pages, but I dislike travelling intensely. Here's the thing about travelling that really irks me . . . it is the only way to get to the really cool places that we get to go.

We try to get out of Alaska at least once during the winter. We initially thought that my schedule would keep us from travelling this winter. At least we thought it would keep me from travelling . . . my wife never completely committed to staying home. However, my schedule opened up and we found ourselves booking a relatively last-minute trip to Hawaii. I know . . . I know . . . "This guy really dislikes travelling to Hawaii . . . boo hoo hoo . . . " Look I am not saying that there isn't a tiny bit of privilege woven into this particular dislike of mine, and I want to stress the fact that I generally love our destinations. I'm just saying that sometimes the entire experience is taken down a few levels due to the problems I have with actually getting to where I want to go.

Planning the trip is always fun, but that experience gets less fun as the appointed hour nears. It starts with packing. My wife and I disagree on packing strategies. Personally, I believe in simply moving the clothes in my dresser to a suitcase. No overthinking or handwringing. Underwear go from the drawer to the suitcase as do socks and shirts and pants. Throw in a pair of shoes or two and YAHTZEE! All done packing! Of course some attention is paid to the climate at your destination when packing the shirts and pants, but mostly YAHTZEE!

My wife seems to stress packing much more than I do. I personally think that she overthinks it and that's why it takes her so long. She says it takes her longer because she has to pack for her AND the boys AND make sure that I have packed correctly. Whatever . . . you say "potato" I say "overthinking".

Once the packing is done we have to get to the airport. Again, my wife and I disagree. She likes to get to the airport just in the nick of time. If our plane leaves on Wednesday at 10 a.m. I am okay with getting there sometime late Tuesday evening. So we have to sit around for a little while before the plane loads? What else were you going to do with those 11 hours? We might need that extra time . . . the gate might change or the line might be long at security or something. You don't know.

Boarding the airplane is always a joy. I believe that a doctoral thesis is swimming around somewhere in the behavior of otherwise normal people waiting at the gate to board an airplane. You can observe herd animal behavior in the way the group moves uniformly around the waiting area. First they gather in a group in an area well away from the gate. As the boarding time nears they migrate in small groups closer and closer. They then separate into various boarding groups. The first-classers group up somewhere just in front of the MVP and Elite Status people. Then the attendant takes the microphone and everybody loses their ability to comprehend basic instructions.

I have tried to think of a set of regulations that are flatly ignored more and enforced less than those controlling airline carry-on baggage. Maybe Montana speed limits? Every time I board an airplane I look around and wonder why they even bother having rules. I believe the phrase is "One carry-on and a small personal item." Leaving Honolulu they let a guy on the airplane wearing an Everest Expedition backpack and a carrying a cello. Seriously? I would pay good money to see a random group of travelers try to make their carry-ons fit in the highly ignored and under utilized measuring rack at the gate that all bags are supposed to fit in.

The problem is that most travelers look at luggage limitations as general guidelines that other travelers need to comply with. I once heard a woman tell a clerk tagging her bags that if the limit was raised to 55 pounds, she wouldn't have any troubles. Lies, all lies. If the limit was 55 she would be standing next to her 57 pound bag wishing for a 60 pound limit.

Once on the airplane more rules are ignored. One bag in the overhead bin, the other under the seat in front of you. Simple right? Again, these are guidelines for others to follow. I try to board the airplane as early as possible to make sure at least one of my bags go in the overhead. Normally I only have one bag and it usually isn't a problem. I keep the area under the chair in front of me clear because I can't bend my left knee very much. On a flight several months ago, the gentlemen in front of me placed a large bag under his assigned seat. I tried to sit down and couldn't get my feet under the seat. I asked him to move it. He said that he wouldn't because he didn't like things near his feet. I took it out and considered putting it on his lap. Instead I waited until traffic slowed down and then found overhead bin space about six rows back and put it up there. As far as I know he is still looking for his bag.

Once in the air we get to engage in the airborne debate of recline vs. no recline. I am seeing less reclining these days. I don't know if it is because it has become an issue or if it is because people now realize that ffive degrees of recline is not enough to help you sleep but it is plenty to knock my ginger ale and $8 Tapas Pack into my lap. That's right . . . $8 for a few olives and a grainy cracker. I find it interesting that almost all complaining about paying for airline food stopped when airline cabins started taking credit cards. Says a lot about our society.

I feel that it is my duty as an airline customer to take this opportunity to point out that most baggage charges and paying for airline food came about several years ago when fuel prices spiked and airlines were looking for ways to make money and remain solvent. I would like to point out that oil is $30 per barrel now . . . Hello? . . . crisis over. How about a free Tapas Pack?

Strangely, one thing about mass travel that doesn't bother me is children on airplanes. It doesn't bother me because I don't think I have any right to complain for two reasons.
1.Children have every right to be on an airplane. Sometimes children get fidgety or grumpy. Sometimes babies cry. It is simply a fact. Your ticket price theoretically entitled you to space under the seat in front of you and the right to recline into my Tapas Pack, but it did not entitle you to a baby-cry free zone. Go ahead, read your ticket and get back to me. I'll wait.
2.I don't complain about other people's children because my two youngest were the Bonnie and Clyde of bad airplane children. Except that both of my younger children are boys and one of them wouldn't be named Bonnie, but you know what I mean.

Seriously. Charlie and Eli were bad flying kid ninjas back in the day. A flight attendant on a Northwest Flight to Maui years ago threatened to knit Charlie a parachute. We bought several drinks for the older ladies in front of us when Eli was about three after he kept grabbing the fluffy gray stuff that stuck up on the seats in front of us. It was fluffy gray old lady hair. My wife and I are pretty forgiving when it comes to other peoples children on flights. These days as long as the iPads, movie players, apple juice and Tapas Packs keep coming, they are great flyers.

Anyway I am not sure if I dislike the actual travel part of travelling or if I just like complaining about it. I'll ask my wife when she gets home . . . after she finishes unpacking for everybody.

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